Not everyone knows how to swim or they may be afraid of the water. Water therapy is performed in a pool that is 4ft in depth. Exercises are done at the side of the pool where the patient can hold onto the wall for support. There are also floatation devices and equipment available for the comfort of the patient. The first session concentrates on the comfort of the patient and educates on the benefits of the water exercises for their specific diagnosis.
Waters buoyancy removes the majority of gravity and patients weight bearing (the amount of weight felt through extremities). With decreased gravity, the joints are allowed to naturally separate allowing for more space. With increased joint space, symptoms of pain are reduced and mobility is increased. With decreased pain, patients are able to perform exercises that were difficult or impossible to perform on land. With increased mobility, patients are able to move through an exercise with almost full range of motion. Water adds resistance which is felt through the whole extremity equally. Water is relaxing to the muscles which also gives patients the ability to complete exercises with decreased pain. Even though you may have Hydrophobia/Aquaphobia you can succeed in an exercise routine in the water in a safe and controlled environment.
A patient came to me not knowing how to swim and little fearful of getting into the water. We worked together for several weeks and after a few sessions she would stay for a while in the pool to help her get use to it and eventually asked for a floatation device (noodle) to use and tried to kick around with it. She did this every time she was in the water. In time she was staying for an extra hour each session and was able to float and swim around with the noodle without fear. She eventually joined our 60/60 program and participated in Water aerobics several times a week. She was pleased with her results from water therapy and it had given her the motivation to stay longer in the water and try new things.
-Jamie Grant., PTA, Aquatic Therapy Director at Dedham Health Physical Therapy